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Western Thinking

The Divide Blog: October 1, 2014

By Jana Brown, screenwriter, The Divide

Before The Divide found us, Perry and I worked on a comedy for a year. We both thought it had great potential. It was funny and witty (at least, we thought so!) and we had so much fun working out the details. But it turned out that there was another story waiting to assert itself. For whatever reason, the first screenplay seemed to lose momentum, perhaps to make room for this new idea. Even as we worked on our original story, our conversations had begun shifting to other creative possibilities, ways to continue this strong working relationship we had built. We even talked about filming on Perry’s ranch, which excluded the comedy right away. I knew he had always dreamed of shooting a Western on his property. Cowboy flicks were not part of a genre I knew much about, but I caught the enthusiasm in Perry’s voice every time he talked about the rolling acres he loves to explore and about how they would make the ideal backdrop for a modern Western. He told me how green those hills are in the spring – his favorite time to be in Northern California – and about how the landscape turns on itself in the harsh, dry climate of California summer. “I’d love to see if I could help you bring forth your vision, whatever it would be,” he wrote to me in May 2012. “If it could be a Western that I could shoot on my ranch, either modern or period, that would be even better. What do you think?” I wasn’t yet sure what to think, so I just let the idea sit.

It was a couple of weeks later that I was driving by myself on the first leg of a five-hour round-trip car ride, when suddenly I did have a vision. I used the iTalk app on my phone to record my thoughts. Here is what I had come up with: an older man on a ranch, once a tough, rugged cowboy, who is becoming increasingly fragile because of dementia. What if there was an unlikely character to come to his aid, someone seeking purpose in his own life? How would that role reversal impact both of them? And what would be the implications of their unlikely bond? I worked on it a little before sharing my idea with Perry, which I called “Western thinking.” By that time, Sam Kincaid had been born, and he had a daughter named Sarah and a ranch hand named Luke. Perry loved the concept. We spent the next six months developing it before he declared me ready to fly, and I began writing the screenplay in late 2012. My education included watching classic Westerns, favorites of Perry’s, including Hud with Paul Newman, Lonely are the Brave with Kirk Douglas, and Comes a Horseman with Jane Fonda. I began to understand the draw of the stark landscape, the simple complexity of the ranchers’ lives – elements that make Westerns appealing – and the foggy-headed Sam Kincaid became even clearer in my own mind.


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